My wife and I are polar opposites when it comes to our finances. I am frugal-minded but she is more of a spend thrift. This is leading to a lot of conflict between us. We usually fight over really small things like buying a name brand cereal instead of a cheaper option or going to the movies instead of staying at home. Recently, we’ve gotten to a point where nearly every purchase causes a lot of tension. Is it normal for married couples to have this kind of problem? Is there anyway to solve it? Help me out, Jeff.
Is it normal for married couples to have disagreements? Absolutely!! Are the issues that cause the conflicts insurmountable? Absolutely not!
Look, everyone agrees that money is valuable, but everyone values it in a different way. That is not meant to be a philosophical black hole – it’s just the truth.
I’m not going to say that your wife is irresponsible and I’m not going to say that you are too cheap for your own good. There is a middle ground that will make both people in a relationship happy and allow you to be financially secure.
I want you to find this happy medium but it is different for every relationship. However, I think that if you follow these few simple tips you’ll have fewer fights and more happiness in your marriage.
- Get a pen and paper – Do you know what the most important thing is when discussing your financial situation? It’s knowing your financial situation! The first step is figuring out how much you earn, how much you spend and how much you save. After doing these calculations, it may turn out that you are in good shape and you shouldn’t worry about springing for the bottles of mineral water your wife enjoys. Or, the numbers may show a dire situation that your wife didn’t expect. Either way, it will be eye opening.
- What’s your goal? – Depending on your age, you may have 30 more years to save for retirement or you may have just a few. Regardless, you need to determine what your financial goals are, where you stand currently, and how you are going to reach it. Talk about it together and make sure to write it down. Post your budget on the fridge and refer to it often. Also, set up smaller goals (weekly, monthly, etc.) that will help you along the way.
- What are your wants? – There is nothing wrong with buying things that fall into the “want” category and not the “need” category. But, that’s only true if they fit in with your budget. You definitely don’t want to go into debt to finance a trip to Paris but, if travelling is one of your “wants” and you can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with taking a road trip to the Rockies, Niagara Falls, the Maritimes or another one of the great destinations Canada has to offer.
- Talk to each other – All issues, whether personal or financial, can get out of control if they are not verbalized. Maintain a healthy dialogue with your wife about your family’s finances. Talking about it will help you reach your common goal and it will allow you to see each other’s point of view.
Dan, thanks for reaching out and don’t be discouraged by you and your wife’s different points of views. But, instead of fighting about it, make sure to sit down and have a real conversation about where you are at, and where you want to be when it comes to your finances.
Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).
If you have a question about a debt management program or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to AskJeff@ConsolidatedCredit.ca. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.